I received this email after Thursday's show where I wondered aloud how public opnion on same sex marriage flipped so quickly. A CBS News Poll out Saturday shows 51% of Americans now support ggay marriage, 40 percent oppose it. The constituional amendment limting marriage to one man and one woman that passed in Wisconsin in 2006 would not, in my opinion, have a chance of passing today. I share this email because it's thoughtful and intelligent. Whether I agree with it or not, I'll share on the air on Monday. Here it is:
"A Conservative Argument for Gay Marriage"
I've been listening for a little over a year now and usually agree with your positions. I take issue with your approach to the gay marriage debate, and am hopeful that you will be receptive to some thoughts that I didn't hear on your show, although I did miss part of it. Apologies if you've heard this.
Some background: married straight woman, conservative on the vast majority of issues. I was liberal back in my college days, and what drew me away was a realization that liberal arguments seemed to anchor in a preconceived conclusion, around which selective facts were positioned. In contrast, I felt that conservatives, generally, didn't reach conclusions until they had comprehensively reviewed the facts. Being a solutions-oriented person, I identified immediately with this pragmatism. I also shudder at the "gotcha" semantic and hypothetical methods liberals use to "make their case", which often defy common sensibilities.
Here's the thing: on gay marriage, I see conservatives employing the exact mechanism I just ascribed to liberals. First, there was a wave of "are they even born that way?" questioning that seems to have lost its heft a while back, followed by religious considerations that pose a fair argument for churches to consider, but not for courts of law. After those arguments are dealt with, you end up with pretty flimsy footing, from a secular perspective. The replacement has been the "slippery slope", "gotcha" questioning that you posed to listeners today. It "works" the same way other "gotcha" methods work, in that it catches a person off guard, and subtly confounds the issue at hand. Although a PERSON, and thus the subject of your questioning, is usually MOTIVATED to marry by love, this is NOT why our SOCIETY encourages the institution. Society, especially a conservative society, promotes STABILITY. You see what you're doing here, right? And where I'm going?
As a conservative, I am looking at reality here, and my positions follow my observations:
1) Some people are gay.
2) These people would make inappropriate partners to straight people.
3) Commitment to something greater than yourself is a positive value.
4) Humans, as we are today, have a predilection for PAIR BONDING. (This is not exactly synonymous with monogamy. For example, birds will "pair bond" but then engage in what biologists term "extra pair copulations, or EPCs." I bring this up because I often hear the argument that humans aren't "wired" for monogamy...well, even if that's the case, we are most certainly "wired" to pair bond. The thing is, we experience the emotion of jealousy, so we often can't have our cake and eat it too, as the birds do :)) As an example outside of marriage, I think back to being a girl in elementary school. Do you think there was any way in heck I could have two best friends? Nope, those best friend necklaces came with two pieces, and us young girls, we pair bonded.
5) So, a PAIR is fundamentally different from a GROUP. Even in language we acknowledge this. For example, "I am married to a person" vs. "I am married to people". An object of ONE is conceptually different than an object of any other number. (2,3,4, etc. can all be accurately described by that second phrase).
6) Even if, and probably especially if, three or more people claimed to be "in love", a practical examination of human emotions (for example, jealousy) and the complexities involved in collaborations as the number of involved collaborators grows, tells us that a social commitment of marriage would probably NOT be a healthy and stabilizing response to the situation at hand. There is an emotional security that comes with having a partner, and I believe this emotional security is a powerful tool in actualizing individual potential. I think many of us can agree that polygamy undermines this concept. However well-meaning, a third wheel would develop, or couples would form within couples, etc...
7) So, a value judgement is at hand. Do we accept (or reject) an earnest proposal of polygamy to the extent we accept a declaration of commitment between two members of the same sex? Your argument uses the stance that their MOTIVATIONS are, in theory, comparable, and thus could be judged along a continuum (slope), that could get slippery. I argue that motivations are NOT the reason to encourage personal commitments between adults. I argue that, for the sake of societal peace and productivity, STABILITY is the reason to encourage "pair bonding".
8) The next obvious query is, "well don't those sister wives seem stable and content enough?" They actually do, if you've caught any of the footage from the shows and documentaries. I am not going to condescend to them and pretend I know what they want or who they should become, but I am not AT ALL concerned, IN THE LEAST, that their way of life, or way of thinking, will integrate our highly individualistic culture. Those women were raised a very specific way, in a very specific place, and it is a no-brainer that their conceptions of adult relationships have little in common with 99.9% of American men and women. To act as if a polygamy movement could ever gain the ground that the gay movement has is really, really, REALLY grasping at straws, Jerry. Don't you think? One, the humble lifestyle of practising polygamist women will hardly proliferate. Two, if a movement began among secular adults, I think it could be outright rejected despite acceptance of gay marriage, on the grounds that a group commitment is fundamentally different than a pairing.
9) The gay community was, for a long time, a group of outcasts. Tell me what positive effect being an outcast has on a person?
10) One thing is for certain: gay people now feel empowered to be who they really are. Don't you think it is better for society that the positive values of a traditional marriage be promoted to them as well?
And, finally, you're completely right. The battle that some are still fighting against this is lost. I support gay marriage. I understand that there are some conservatives that don't, but they are only hurting the movement with a continued fight.
Great show, thanks.